The Evil Tub of Goo

The man who started it all.

In the spring of 1940, an unidentified criminal fell into a tub of goo.  From this tub of goo emerged The Joker, and the world has never been the same.  Clayface, Mr. Freeze, Two-Face, Solomon Grundy, Parasite, all fell victim, in one way or another, to tubs of goo.  Christ, the Creeper fell into the same tub of goo as the Joker!  You would have thought that having one person turn into a raving psycho would be enough for that company to stop manufacturing that particular brand of goo, but that’s corporate America for you. 

(In the film Batman and Robin, even Poison Ivy falls into a tub of goo, although her comic-book counterpart did not seem to need to take it that far.)

Where would we be without tubs of goo?  How many of our psychotics, mutants and monsters owe their existence to tubs of goo?

And not just villains, good guys too.  Flash fell into a tub of goo too, and was struck by lightning to seal the deal.  Metamorpho, Plastic Man, Swamp Thing — all goo-produced phenomena.

Over in the Marvel universe, in addition to having their own swamp thing called Man-Thing (who fell into the same tub of goo as Solomon Grundy but with vastly different effect) they actually have a tub of goo from outer space, one that will actively seek out people and jump on them, turning super-heroes bad and bad guys evil. 

(It should be noted that the Marvel Universe seems to be plagued with radiation instead of tubs of goo, perhaps as a symptom of coming of age after the H-bomb testing began.)

Where is the anti tub-of-goo legislation?  Or just lids, what about lids?  Just put some goddamn lids on the tubs of goo, would that be so hard?  Bruce Wayne needn’t have changed his life and become a fearsome creature of the night, he could have just sprung for some lids and his city would have been perfectly safe.


34 Responses to “The Evil Tub of Goo”
  1. mr_rakshasa says:

    Face front, Meta-maniacs! Did the merely marvellous man of the elements receive his astounding, far-out powers from falling into a tub of goo? Say it ain’t so! It’s a too too titanic FACT, sure as Ma Mason’s favourite son is sweet on his Sapphy-Baby, that Rexy-boy lucked into his gig as the Fab Freak of 1001 changes by being bathed in the rays of the Orb of Ra – also his one (*choke*) weakness! To top that (and brother, how do you top that?), the Orb got snagged by Harrumphin’ Simon Stagg, none other than Sapphire Stagg’s dear ol’ daddy!


    Too Haney?

    • Todd says:

      I bow to your superior knowledge. On Justice League he falls into a tub of goo.

      • mr_rakshasa says:

        Aha. I haven’t seen that episode but I probably should, forthwith.
        If you’re into the printed stuff I recommend Showcase Presents Metamorpho.

        • Todd says:

          I have lingerd over the Showcase volume in the stores but have not yet taken the plunge. I should probably just get it; who knows if these things will ever stay in print.

    • curt_holman says:

      Watch For Falling Rocks

      Did Man-Thing fall into a tub of goo? Maybe I’m getting his origin mixed up with Swamp Thing’s (both involve catching on fire and running into a swamp, I believe — which is, I guess, a whole ecosystem of goo).

      Another interesting trend is the beloved-supporting-character’s-noble-sacrifice-under-falling-rubble. If memory serves me right, both Gwen Stacey’s father and Jarella (the Hulk’s green girlfriend) were killed when super-battles cause chimneys or other big rocks to fall from high buildings towards little kids in the street, and both characters died pushing the kids to safety. Maybe it was the same kid.

      • Todd says:

        Re: Watch For Falling Rocks

        If I am not mistaken, Swamp-Thing, Man-Thing and Solomon Grundy all fell into the same magical swamp, which counts as a tub of goo in my book. Just as Two-Face didn’t literally fall into a tub of goo, he merely had some tossed at his face, it still counts.

        Someone should compile a list (oh I’m sure someone has) of meta-humans and the source of their powers. My son Sam and I have an ongoing categorization process:

        1. He was born that way
        2. His parents/family/loved ones were killed
        3. He’s a “regular guy in a suit”
        4. He’s a regular guy in a magic suit and/or helmet
        5. He was exposed to radiation/cosmic rays/tub of goo
        6. He’s a regular guy in a suit with a magic prop
        7. He’s a regular guy in a suit and a cool vehicle
        8. He’s insane
        9. He’s from the future


        • mr_rakshasa says:

          Re: Watch For Falling Rocks

          I’ve got it down to four categories, nice and broad, because I think that could work in an RPG and I like those sorts of things. Basically, there’s Cosmic, Transformed, Mystic, and Human. Human includes genius-level intellect and the like, but I’m not sure where Iron Man falls – probably Transformed as his power results in him having to wear an iron chest plate all the time or die.

          • Todd says:

            Re: Watch For Falling Rocks

            Iron Man is a regular guy in a magic suit — the fact that he would die without it is a choice he made. He’s cousin to Starman, Aztek, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold and anyone else who is dependent on a piece of technology to right wrongs. Which is not the same as Batman, who, despite his plethora of gadgets, depends on his wits and powers of deduction (and physical stamina) to catch bad guys. (How did they describe him at one point? Sherlock Holmes crossed with Zorro?)

        • monsterdon says:

          Re: Watch For Falling Rocks

          I would seperate number four into two different categories. I think there is a great enough distinction from the magical suit and technological suit to warrant two categories.

          I would also add “made deal with devil/demon” to your list.

        • greyaenigma says:

          Re: Watch For Falling Rocks

          He’s a regular guy in a magic suit and/or helmet

          I can’t read this without singing “Spear and magic helmet!!”

        • greyaenigma says:

          Re: Watch For Falling Rocks

          Actually, I don’t think Two-Face counts as goo, since (as far as I can recall), it was just acid and just scarred him. He’s got no special powers as a result, he jst went insane.

          I don’t see how Swamp Thing / Solomon Grundy and Man-Thing could have fallen into the same swamp, since they’re in different universes. Very similar swamps, perhaps. Not to mention how many times the Swamp Thing origin has been revamped. He’s a god! Slap! He’s my husband! Slap! He’s a god!

          (It should be noted that the Marvel Universe seems to be plagued with radiation instead of tubs of goo, perhaps as a symptom of coming of age after the H-bomb testing began.)

          I think the discovery of DNA actually played more part in the direction Marvel took with their origins.

          Don’t forget Daredevil and his rather superfluous tub of goo.

          • Todd says:

            Re: Watch For Falling Rocks

            Daredevil, how could I forget you?

            As for Two-Face, I spilled some battery acid on my leg once, it didn’t turn me into a psychopath. Or turn my skin green, for that matter. I say it’s a tub of goo.

            He’s a god! Slap! He’s my husband! Slap! He’s a god!

            Sounds like one of my wife’s therapy sessions.

            Good night, everyone!

            • greyaenigma says:

              Re: Watch For Falling Rocks

              I spilled some battery acid on my leg once, it didn’t turn me into a psychopath.

              Yes, but presumably you already had two legs.

            • greyaenigma says:

              Re: Watch For Falling Rocks

              It’s oddly comforting to find the comment I want to write now, re-reading this article, has already been written by me of two years ago.

  2. craigjclark says:

    Falling into a tub of goo? I’d be down for that — as long as I wasn’t required to turn evil afterwards.

    • Todd says:

      Tubs of goo are terribly unreliable — one never knows if one will emerge a devious, super-powered sociopath or a crusading, super-powered champion of truth and justice.

      One wonders if there are untold stories of the DC universe where people fell into tubs of goo and ended up merely gooey. Then went home and showered.

      • mr_rakshasa says:

        It’s bound to have happened to R’as al-Ghul at least once.

      • craigjclark says:

        Can you imagine a story about an average Joe who falls into a tub of goo, imagines that he was imbued with super powers and goes around making an ass out of themselves? Yeah, I know. It’s probably been told a million times.

        • Todd says:

          I think that concept was put to bed in Amazon Women on the Moon, where Ed Begley, Jr. plays The Invisible Man in a parody of the James Whale movie, the difference being that in Ed’s case the formula doesn’t work, he just thinks it has. So he runs around the village stark naked, knocking people’s hats off and giggling about how clever he is while they look embarrassed for him.

          • craigjclark says:

            You’re probably right. I was just wondering if it had been treated in the arena of superhero comics.

            • Todd says:

              Instead of farce it could be treated as comedy a la They Might Be Giants, where a man believes himself to be Sherlock Holmes.

              Now that I think about it, the title of They Might Be Giants, in addition to inspiring my favorite living American band, is taken from Don Quixote, which would also work in a superhero context, and which is an idea I’ve toyed with before, that in the middle of sunny, crimeless suburbia an aging manchild goes over the edge and starts dressing like a superhero outside of his home, seeing his suburb as Gotham City, dangerous and dark and filled with supervillains.

  3. robolizard says:

    The tub of goo of course also created the Urbaniak related villain [or maybe future anti hero?] Karen Strang, seen here her explanation–>

    Something notable about the tub of goo–> whenever a character falls into it, his superhero persona tends to become his real persona, which is what happened to Plastic Man, the Joker, the Creeper and most painfully two face. I always thought Solomon Grundy fell into a swamp with toxons. That is no pile of goo! THAT IS PILE OF NATURE!

    Golden Age Joker btw tends to rock worlds. There’s something gloriously natural about the early Batmans… gloriously dark without shirking away or overdoing it.

    Yeah, about the origins… I was reading E.C. Segar’s Popeye realize that he could easily take on some of the JLA’s mortal members. Instead he has wacky adventures about adorable magic animals and the sea hag. I suppouse an origin is the key thing to superheroics.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great post – goo versus radiation is a nice one for later as well.

    What, if any, is the connection between goo and slime? A primal, corporeal, yet somehow corporate stuff? An essential connection must be somewhere embedded, say, a release from mortal bounds (a balanced adulthood most likely) through going against a prohibition, an ‘accidental’ direct drench in pure, unadulterated, infantile fantasy pleasure, (fall into the goo vat) which must have some potential consequences, a certain dread connected to the act, certainly as it is a narrative within consumer pop culture.

    So a definite shift occurs, at least measurable within a similar target-audience demographics range, from falling into goo to being encased by slime, from comics-culture onto 80s-cinema (slimy s/f of ghosts, things, etc..), and onto 90s kids tv, and the Nickolodean awards where green-sliming is now just another way of childhood audience celebrating celebrity. (Wouldn’t The Joker be the biggest celeb today?)

    If there were the corporate “goo” vats, these would have been something offered at the most exclusive celebrity health spas. Although this is not intended to advocate P.Hilton et al are the equivalent of todays gooed up super villains.


  5. mikeyed says:

    Even Wolverine villain Cyber fell into a vat of hallucinogens.

  6. robolizard says:

    Ooh! As long as– you’re reading– high class children’s superhero comics, I cannot reccomend Jeff Smith’s Shazam highly enough. Amazin’ work.

    As is Bone, so we could see it coming…

    • Todd says:

      I got the first Shazam! volume, it is really good — it captures well the flavor of the original comics while appealing to a current sensibility. I love the original Captain Marvel comics, with the zany villains and the talking tiger, it’s a flavor missing in too many comic books today.